Mark Dolliver’S Takes

Still Discombobulated By The End Of Daylight Savings Time? You’Re Not Alone
WHAT, ME WORRY?: Optimistic in General, Pessimistic in Detail
True optimists won’t let a little thing like nuclear war spoil their outlook. Nor are they discouraged by the likelihood of epidemics, terrorist attacks and collisions with stray asteroids. And the country is full of true optimists, according to a study commissioned by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. When asked to characterize their outlook for themselves and their families over the next 50 years, 81 percent classified themselves as optimistic–including 40 percent who said they’re “very” much so. Even when people raised their sights to the nation at large, optimism remained high (albeit less so), with 23 percent “very optimistic” and another 47 percent “somewhat” so. Only 5 percent were “very pessimistic” about the future for themselves and their families; just 7 percent felt that way about the U.S. in general. These findings may not seem particularly surprising until you look at the responses people gave when asked about the odds of various dreadful things happening. Thirty percent said a nuclear war involving the U.S. “will probably happen” in the next 50 years, and 7 percent felt it “will definitely happen.” Likewise, 42 percent said there probably will be “an epidemic worse than AIDS,” while 14 percent said it’s a sure thing. A “major energy crisis” was held probable by 48 percent and a certainty by 15 percent. As for a “major terrorist attack on the U.S. involving biological or chemical weapons,” 51 percent said it will probably occur and 13 percent said it definitely will. As if these earthly problems wouldn’t create enough havoc, 25 percent said an asteroid will probably hit the Earth and 6 percent said it will definitely happen. None of this shakes their optimism. Perhaps people are simply heartened by their confidence that the next 50 years won’t be dull.

OUT-OF-HOME COOKING: The Cold-Stove League
If you ate more than 917 home-cooked meals last year, you were pulling up the national average. In the latest edition of its annual Report on Eating Patterns in America, The NPD Group found a significant increase in the number of meals cooked outside the house and a drop in consumption of home cooking. (The study covers the 12-month period ending February 1999.) The average American ate 139 restaurant meals, a 14 percent increase versus 1990, while consumption of home-cooked meals fell 17 percent during the same period. “While not yet an endangered species, the home-cooked meal is clearly on the decline,” says the research firm. It’s not that people aren’t eating at home. Often, they’re stopping at a restaurant (fast-food or otherwise) and getting takeout. In fact, says NPD, less than half the meals bought at a restaurant were actually eaten there. When people do cook at home, they’re keeping it simple. As a consequence, side dishes hit what the report terms “a new low,” with just 65 percent of “main meals” including one, down from 74 percent in 1990. This helps explain why “only 36 percent of meals involved preparation using the stove top.”

HAPPY DAYS: Be It Ever So Humble
Amid the festival of happiness that is the 1990s, a new report from the Census Bureau alerts us to yet another thing about which Americans are content. Asked to rate their homes and neighborhoods on a scale from 1 to 10, a majority of householders gave them an 8 or better. (The report uses data for 1997, the most recent available on this matter.) “The 8-or-better satisfaction level is reflected almost equally in every U.S. region,” according to the bureau’s summary of its findings. Actually, there was a bit of variation in the percentage of respondents expressing that high level of domestic contentment–from 59 percent in the Midwest and South to 58 percent in the Northeast to 53 percent in the West.

DADS, NOT CADS: Perhaps Today’s Men Aren’t Such Louts After All
Given a choice between having more money and having more friends, which would you pick? In a study commissioned by Men’s Health magazine among college-educated men age 18-52, 72 percent of respondents opted for friends. They clearly gave the “right” answer, but one wonders how it sits with the friends they’ve already got. Think of it this way: Mightn’t you be happier if your best pal acquired a house on Martha’s Vineyard than if he acquired some additional friends?
Be that as it may, the study (conducted by DYG Inc.) found men to be a far more socially acceptable bunch than their current reputation might suggest. For instance,
82 percent “would rather have more time for their families than more time for their own interests.” Seventy-three percent subscribed to the statement, “Once you have a child, your own needs come second.” Asked what they “equate with status,”
86 percent cited “being a great husband and father,” 83 percent chose “leaving work at 5 every day to be with your kids” and 81 percent spoke of “opting for family rather than a prestigious career.”
Still, it’s not as if they’re indifferent to good old money and the things it can buy. As you can see from the chart, these men want high-quality products, and they expect a certain amount of pampering as they buy them. And while they’re big on sports and outdoorsy activities, 66 percent “would choose exceptional business savvy over exceptional athletic skills.”
Among other tidbits from the study:
59 percent of respondents said they “would rather have a year of great sex than $10,000.” (In this context, the 10 grand has a Dr. Evilesque ring to it.) A hospitable
78 percent of the men surveyed wish they had “more time to make dinner for family and friends.” On the male-bonding front,
72 percent would like “more time with male friends.” And for all their enthusiasm about the joys of fatherhood, 60 percent “would rather have more time with their wives than more time with their kids.”

MIXED BLESSINGS: Another French Kiss-Off, Gender and Stock Prices, Vanity Here and There, Etc.
It was fertile ground for controversy late last month. Was someone really conducting an Internet auction of fashion models’ eggs for use by infertile would-be mothers? While the tangled facts of the case sort themselves out (if, indeed, they ever do), the inquisitive folks at Parent Soup were wondering about the auction’s underlying assumption–i.e., that prospective parents would want to enhance their odds of producing a beautiful baby by using an egg from a beautiful model. Not many would, judging by the results of the Web site’s online poll. Given a choice of egg donors, 44.3 percent said they’d pick a Nobel Prize winner, while 39.3 percent would choose a talented artist/musician and 12.0 percent would enlist a star athlete. Just 4.3 percent said they would prefer a fashion model as their egg donor.
Being the father of your country gives no assurance your dental shortcomings won’t be the subject of ads that run centuries after you’re dead and buried. At least the one shown here is not selling toothpaste or dental insurance. Rather, it’s publicizing an Atlanta museum’s display of George Washington’s “most personal possessions.” Deadpan copy refers to this as “an exhibit every American should see. But probably not touch.” Good advice. Huey/Paprocki of Atlanta created the ad.
It’s getting to the point where an advertiser could break through the clutter by saying something nice about the French. In the meantime, a furniture company named Mitchell Gold gets into the French-bashing act in an ad that displays “The classic Parisian flea-market club chair.” On the off chance Parisians are offended by the ad’s listing of improvements the client has made to the chair’s traditional features–“1) no fleas” and “2) no Parisians”–small type at the bottom of the page assures them it’s all in jest. Still, don’t hold your breath until the next time a Paris-based company assigns its account to Trone Advertising of Greensboro, N.C., which produced this ad.
Are teenage girls made miserable by poor body image? Some are, of course, but a poll by Jump magazine finds 70 percent of girls saying they’re happy with the way they look. Nor, by their telling, are they unduly swayed by the photos of skinny models that fill the glossy magazines. Thirty-one percent said such photos are “not at all important” in influencing their self-image, while 32 percent feel “neutral” about them. On the other hand, the survey found 35 percent saying they’d first begun dieting when as young as 11 or 12.
Lest anyone suppose that obliviousness is an exclusively American phenomenon, note this nugget from a study of Internet use in Britain: 1.6 million adults in the U.K. have never heard of the Internet. Plenty of others are getting with the program, though, and 27 percent of those surveyed by CommerceNet and Nielsen Media Research said they’d used the Internet in the previous month. Among this wired cohort, 44 percent “log on every day.”
Do you want to look less put-together than a pigeon? If not, an ad for Gloss.com will draw you to this online retailer of beauty products. (Ground Zero of Marina del Rey, Calif., created the piece.) Actually, it’s not clear from the photo that the painted pigeon is any more alluring to the rest of the flock than her unpainted sisters, so some readers will decide to face the world without makeup. Others, though, will feel that if Gloss.com can make a run-of-the-mill pigeon look chic, it might be able to do the same for them.
Gender Gap of the Week: Men are more likely than women to think stock prices will rise in the next six months. In a study by Decision Analyst of Arlington, Texas, the number of women who believe the market will rise (41.1 percent) just narrowly exceeded the number who think it will “stay about the same” (39.7 percent). Another 19.2 percent think the market will fall. By contrast, an outright majority of men foresee a rising market (53.4 percent), versus 30.0 percent saying it’ll stay the same and 16.6 percent expecting it to fall.
We know technological change creates winners and losers. We simply would not have guessed Santa Claus was among the losers in the emergence of online commerce. A commercial for an Internet retailer named ShopNow.com sets us straight. With consumers doing their holiday shopping online instead of hassling with brick-and-mortar stores, says the spot, the semi-traditional “mall Santas” have fallen on hard times. “You can’t dwell on what was,” says one out-of-work Santa as he tries to keep his spirits up. “I don’t blame the malls, see. It’s not their fault that people don’t shop there.” We see one mall Santa reduced to the role of squeegee man, rebuffed in his offer to give a passing car a “Santa shine.” Another sits on a park bench with a sign that says, “Sit on Santa’s lap, only 25 cents.” It’s a clever spot, but nobody should be surprised if the agency behind it, Think New Ideas of Seattle, finds coal in its stocking this Christmas.
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” And now we have the numbers to prove it, even if not quite in the way Ecclesiastes suggests. As summarized on the WorldOpinion Web site, a 30-country poll by Roper Starch Worldwide found that 23 percent of women and 16 percent of men think about their appearance all the time. In the U.S., 27 percent of women and 17 percent of men are so vain.

STRIKING IT RICH: A Penny Saved Is What?
Maybe lottery ads are better than mutual-fund ads. Whatever the reason, people with incomes below $35,000 think they’re more likely to amass $500,000 in a lifetime by winning a jackpot (40 percent said so) than by saving/investing (30 percent). That’s one finding of a study by Primerica and the Consumer Federation of America. A related fact: Americans underestimate the power of saving. Asked how much they’d accumulate by investing $25 a week for 40 years at a 7 percent annual yield, U.S. adults gave a median guess of $122,500–less than half the correct figure of $286,640.

GREED CITY: Lauding Wall Street Itself, But Selling Streeters Short
If the New York Stock Exchange were in the market for a new motto, it might best pander to public opinion by terming itself “A necessary evil since 1792.” That’s the sort of mixed verdict to emerge from a Harris Poll on Americans’ attitudes toward Wall Street and its denizens.
Seventy-two percent of respondents said Wall Street benefits the country, including 24 percent who say it does so “a lot.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, just 3 percent believe the financial markets “harm the country a lot.” Sixty-nine percent agreed that “Wall Street is absolutely essential because it provides the money business must have for investment.” The poll even found a sizable minority of respondents (42 percent) subscribing to the statement, “In general, what is good for Wall Street is good for the country.”
Given these favorable opinions of the role the markets play, shouldn’t Americans regard those who work on Wall Street as benefactors of mankind? Well, they don’t. Asked whether market professionals are generally “as honest and moral as other people,” only 39 percent said they are. (As recently as 1997, 51 percent of Harris respondents felt that way, as did 49 percent in last year’s poll). Sixty percent agreed with the statement, “Most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it.” (That’s up from 56 percent in each of the previous two years’ polls.) Fifty-six percent said “Wall Street only cares about making money and absolutely nothing else.” (That’s down a percentage point from last year.)
In light of numbers like these, people who toil in the financial markets should feel relieved that a bare majority of the poll’s respondents (51 percent) said “Wall Street is dominated by greed and selfishness.” Anyway, isn’t that what it’s there for?

GREAT OCTOBER: Adding Up Adweek’s Classified Ads for Jobs
The doldrums of spring are but a memory for connoisseurs of job-market data in advertising, marketing and media. Note that the weakest year-to-year gain for any region last month was 25 percent, based on the volume of help-wanted classifieds running in Adweek. In fact, it was the best October since the dawn of classifieds time, pulling the year-to-date U.S. total into positive territory for the first time in 1999.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: And We’re Sure 0% of Them Pad Their Expense Reports
So much for the notion that business people would stay put and “teleconference” rather than jump on airplanes and go places in the flesh. Twenty-two percent of U.S. adults traveled on business at least once last year, according to a study sponsored by OAG Worldwide and conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America.
On average, business travelers took 5.4 trips apiece last year. For 84 percent of them, their most recent jaunt involved an overnight stay, and the average trip meant 3.3 nights away from home. Meetings, trade shows and conventions generate much of the travel, with 47 percent of those surveyed saying their most recent trip was prompted by one of those. Surprisingly few respondents participate in a frequent-flyer program (32 percent), and fewer still are in a frequent-lodger program (16 percent).
Men continue to outnumber women among business travelers, with the former accounting for 60 percent of the cohort. The study notes a rise in the average age of this group–now at 42, versus 40 in 1991. “This age increase is attributable mainly to a larger proportion of 45-to-54-year-olds who are now traveling for business,” says the report, “with a corresponding decrease in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-old business travelers.”